Robot to the Rescue

DUNCANVILLE, TX – On Thursday, January 17th, a field test at the DeSoto Fire Station #1 Training Facility demonstrated the synergy that exists between students from Duncanville High School and members of the Best Southwest CERT organization. Duncanville Engineering Academy students, under the guidance of teacher Barton Burnett, have constructed a Search and Rescue Robot (SARR). “Robbie the Robot” was put through
his paces over about an hour and a half of tests that were witnessed by several members of the Community Emergency Response Teams.
Students Loretta Millirons, Stephen Cornell, and Elsa Perales have constructed a prototype robot that, provided it performs well in field tests and proves it meets the requirements of the CERT group, will be turned over to the volunteer organization for actual search and rescue operations by the end of the current school year.
Mr. Burnett credits his students for their dedication, but also requires they perform their function as designers of a product to meet specific customer requirements. He also was quick to point out the contributions by other teachers at Duncanville High School, specifically Eric Manuel – Electronics and Computer Repair, and Marissa Alsabrook – Architectural Design.
During the field tests, “Robbie” was required to overcome physical obstacles, navigate through a completely darkened building, and, in another test, find an unknown number of “victims” in that same darkened building. In one of the final tests, the robot had to demonstrate it could climb a 30° incline and emerge on top of a platform, still sending pictures back to the operators in the control trailer.
The robot was able to demonstrate that it could perform every action required to meet the test criteria. In the most true-to-life test, the robot was able to help locate two “victims” in a completely darkened building. From the time it entered the building until it exited, the total elapsed time was 8:58. It would have been faster, but Victim Number Two, Team Member Loretta Millirons, attempted to camouflage and hide herself in a very tight space. In spite of her efforts, the infrared camera was still able to find and identify her.
According to Mr. Burnett, the Mission Statement of the Duncanville Engineering Academy is “To develop engineering projects to benefit the Duncanville community at large or the education infrastructure.” Mr. Burnett had a plan at the beginning of this school year to get some of his students involved in a project that would benefit the community and provide the students an entry into national competition at the same time. Mr. Burnett is a District Director for Skills USA, a group that promotes the training of students to become skilled workers for the future. As a means of promoting their message, Skills USA sponsors several different kinds of competitions among student groups nationwide. Their Engineering Technology/Design Competition filled the bill on both counts, providing an entry into competition while developing a project to benefit the local community.
Should the prototype prove to be successful, there is a general feeling among educators and CERT members alike that a revised version of the robot could be designed for production and distribution to emergency response groups throughout the state.
“The goal is for the robot to be completed by the end of the school year and given to CERT for use in real life emergency situations in our local area. It will be equipped with two-way video and audio, and will have the ability to deliver items like water and first aid kits in a search and rescue scenario.” – Duncanville ISD Press Release
Community Emergency Response Team, or CERT, is comprised of volunteers from the local community. Their function is to assist first-responders, medical emergency teams, and other disaster-relief agencies in the event of local emergencies such as tornadoes, floods, or other disasters. The Best Southwest Regional CERT group has members from, and includes coverage of, Duncanville, DeSoto, Cedar Hill, Lancaster, and Northwood University. The Suburban Newspaper will have further coverage of the CERT BSWR in a future issue. To find out how you can become involved with CERT BSWR, visit their website at